This tiger’s got more than claws – Sabertooth Swordsman, the new digital series from Dark Horse Comics, is a crazed fantasy where a simple farmer takes on the form of a prehistoric beast to save his family from “The Manevolent Mastadon Mathematician.”
Out there? Oh, it’s out there.
Filled with bizarre mythology, fights, and psychotropic grasshoppers, it’s being serialized weekly online for 99 cents an installment by Dark Horse, with a hard-copy collection coming in November. We talked to creators Aaron Conley and Damon Gentry to try to make some sense of all this.
Newsarama: Aaron, give us the down-low on this sabertoothed dude and that Malevolent Mastodon Mathematician.
Aaron Conley: The down-low is that Sabertooth Swordsman was a farmer dude living in a low down society of plagued and impoverished people who are being kidnapped for reasons unknown by the Mastodon Mathematician.
Sabertooth's wife gets kidnapped and he finds a crazy cloud god who turns him from a simple man into a Sabertoothed Sword Swinging Tiger-Man, from there hilarity and violence ensue on his trek to save his wife and get to the bottom of this mysterious Mastodon Mathematician.
Nrama: How'd y'all get the idea for this now?
Damon Gentry: Aaron came up with the characters and started drawing a comic with Sabertooth Swordsman and the Cloud God, and I threw in a few ideas and some dialogue for that initial strip, which we posted on our website, invademyprivacy.com a few years ago.
Conley: It seemed like people really liked that strip most out of the projects we were working on, so we chose to expand that idea. After a few beers and lots of yelling our little tiger baby was born!
Nrama: And how did you wind up on Dark Horse? It is the same company as Lone Wolf and Cub and Usagai Yojimbo, so dare I ask how y'all's swordsman would hold up against their likes?
Gentry: We came in through the snail mail submissions, the 'slush pile' at Dark Horse. Our awesome editor Brendan saw the pitch we had sent for a different story, and offered us 2 pages in Myspace Dark Horse Presents, which was our first professional comics gig, and after that we started working with Brendan to create a pitch for Sabertooth Swordsman.
Sabertooth Swordsman would definitely get his clock cleaned by such experienced samurai. He's not a natural fighter, he's just been given power that he doesn't always know how to handle, so he doesn't usually solve situations in a graceful manner.
Conley: I agree with Damon, Sabertooth is pretty new to this hero gig he would prolly get his but kicked. But they are all pretty solid dudes, so hopefully in grand hero tradition, they would duke it out for a few pages and end up teaming up against a greater evil! Sabertooth might even get to kiss a baby!
Nrama: How did you dudes come to work together on this book?
Gentry: We started working together with the serious intention of breaking into comics 6 or 7 years ago. We had known each other since high school and we share a lot of sensibilities when it comes to the stuff we like, so the team-up made sense.
Conley: Yeah, working with Damon is great because he's able to organize our crazy ideas and contributes a lot of interesting concepts to the stories we create together. He also stops me from redrawing things... most times.
Nrama: And how do you feel about the digital serialization before it being all print-style?
Gentry: We didn't start the book with the intention of doing it digital-first, but I was excited when our editor Brendan brought up the idea about halfway through making the book, and immediately wanted that to happen.
Hopefully it will help generate some word of mouth by the time the hardcover comes out in November, which is available for pre-order through Previews right now!
Conley: It has definitely helped get the word out sooner which has allowed us to do interviews with great websites like Newsarama! (laughs)
Nrama: What are some aspects of mythology and history you drew from for this book?
Conley: Well the Cloud God is basically a genie, and there are other mythological creatures sprinkled throughout the book. We were really influenced by a range of things from video games to spaghetti westerns, and those have a mythology all of their own.
Nrama: And tell us a bit about how you put the art together for this.
Conley: I basically just started drawing. (laughs) I didn't do a whole lot of design work. I storyboarded the whole book very loosely because that's what our editor Brendan wanted but from there it was just like page 1—go!
Nrama: What's next for y'all? Any more stories of this Sabertooth'd dude coming up?
Gentry: There sure is, Sabertooth Swordsman will have an 8-page adventure in the September issue of Dark Horse Presents, available to order right now!
Conley: Yep, it actually takes place during the story in our book and adds to the story in a cool way, so it's a must have!
Nrama: What are some other creators and books you're currently enjoying?
Gentry: I read a Dark Horse book called Resident Alien recently and really enjoyed that. I picked up Jim Woodring's Problematic book which is perfectly insane and inspiring as usual. I've got a huge list of comics to catch up on, I've had my nose to the grindstone making SS.
Conley: I cannot stop looking through these issues of a Heavy Metal anthology style magazine I got that came out though Warren Publishing in the 70's called 1984/19994, it has amazing stuff by Alex Nino, Ruby Nebres, Richard Corben and Frank Thorne. As far as new stuff goes I can pretty much count on anything by Brandon Graham to be the jam!
Nrama: Anything else you want to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Conley: Stan Lee Cologne?
Gentry: While he's talking about Stan Lee Cologne I should mention that Aaron did the cover for Prophet #36 and a couple of covers for It Girl and The Atomics, which are all out now and look awesome, check 'em out! Also I did an 8 page story with Mike Allred for Dark Horse's Eerie #2, that was a lot of fun.